Why Young Japanese Men Refuse to Be Like Their Fathers

There’s a revolution happening among Japanese millennial men that is making them almost unrecognizable from the previous generation.

Observed to have been ditching habits such as drinking, overworking, and even driving, among others, the modern Japanese male seems to have evolved into someone with a significantly different mindset. And it is disrupting many major Japanese industries.

While their dads (and generations of fathers before them) consider the wristwatch as a symbol for their transition to adulthood, Japanese millennials treat it as an unnecessary accessory. Why? Well, they already have smartphones and they also tell time.    

They also stopped buying neckties. Apparently, the younger generation views the tie as a corporate noose which would eventually hang them one day, This Week in Asia reported.

The Japanese millennial men are also becoming more rebellious to their bosses, with many young employees willing to defy company orders for reassignments or transfers.

According to the Work-Life Balance and Diversity Promotion Research Project, a new study by Chuo University found that  42.7 % of male employees are willing to do everything, including file for resignation, to avoid a transfer.

In another study conducted by Wine website WineBazaar, it was revealed that 39.8% of men in their 20s were “non-drinkers”, with many stating that they either never imbibed or “almost never” had a night out at a pub.

“I drink,” 29-year-old Sho Hosomura was quoted as saying. “I don’t want to go drinking with my boss or the other people that I work with, but I drink when I go out with my friends.”

When asked how often:

“I go out once or maybe twice a month,” he said. “I’ll usually have two or three ‘chu-hai’ (a fizzy combination of rice-based, fruit flavored shochu). Perhaps three. But only sometimes.”

This, of course, is in stark contrast with the party culture of Japanese males in the 1980s and throughout the 1990s. Gone were the drinking sorties and parties that lasted until dawn, most of which were unofficially work-related.

“I don’t think that anyone I know drinks as much as people did back then,” Hosomura said.

“I think young people resent being put under pressure from their superiors and it has got to the point where bosses are no longer even bothering to ask the young guys to go drinking with them. They know what the answer is going to be.”

Hosomura also notices this difference in attitude between generations toward corporate Japan.

“I don’t think that fanatical workers who put the company ahead of everything in their lives exist anymore in Japan,” he explained. “After the war, Japan had to rebuild quickly and people worked very hard. Those were the people of my grandfather’s generation. That continued into my father’s era. But that way of thinking doesn’t exist anymore.

“We consider anyone who puts in crazy hours for the company to be working for a ‘black company’ that works its staff to the point of karoshi,” he said, referencing the term Japanese use for the phenomenon of dying due to overwork.

According to Tokyo’s International Christian University associate professor of international relations Stephen Nagy, the trend does not look very promising for liquor companies in the country.

“There has been a huge shift in Japanese society when it comes to drinking,” he said.

He added that in modern society, Japanese millennial men find it more acceptable to go home after work for a variety of reasons.

Aside from the fact that the workers’ salaries have stagnated in recent years, Nagy also mentions the increasing equality between genders. According to him, women now demand their husbands go home at the end of the working day.

“There is a widespread rejection of the acceptance that fathers spent decades working in the office well into the evening and then went drinking with their colleagues,” Nagy said.

“And I see no signs that will come back anytime soon.”

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